Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Dance

I read "1984" once a year from age 17-22 and thus feel strangely well prepared for the current epoch. The book is in many ways a study in false polarities as exemplified by doublethink, defined as the ability to hold two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. Sales of the book have surged dramatically this month, so I thought I would add a few of my thoughts about it.

 The US two party system is a false polarity and analogous to doublethink made manifest. A key lesson of Orwell‘s book unfolds as Winston is tortured, and he finds himself capable of doing everything he abhors in the Party: he betrays his love, Julia. He hates, he wishes for violence. At the intersection of good and evil is the self and between the dual universes rush wild nightmares.

 This is the oldest truth of all truths, both secular and religious: the battle is always, always with ourselves. Trump is the president we got as the logical extension of a disjointed, dispassionate, violent, fragmented nation.

The resistance is our souls fighting back.

A better future would include both day and night, balanced as they were always meant to be. What's fascinating right now is that on the brink of totalitarianism we have a choice, should we muster collective courage to make it together. We can succumb to our worst fears or we can take a leap across the raging waters into an unimaginable, better, more nuanced world.

 We already know that most dualities are false and that male-female, dark-light, straight-gay, truth-lies are so complex as to feel entirely relative to context. Facts are not culturally relative though, and nor are the SENSE OF good and evil, despite the variousness with which we codify them. Fact is the gift science and history give us, a lantern in the night. Music and art and beauty operate against dualism. They integrate us.

Good and evil are gestalts not injunctions. They are only fleetingly personified by any man. Indeed they fill the sails of key characters because we allow them to. Trump's leadership is the sum total of the worst in us and he is only going to do exactly what he said he would do.

 We must look in to the mirror Trump holds up to us without flinching and know what we are capable of. And then we must choose to fight. Fight to be understood not adored, and fight for the best in yourself.

Orwellian evil wins over the individual but it never dares imagine that collaboration is crucial to any lasting change for the best. The book is a pessimistic one but it contains every clue we now need.

Stand beside those you love and those you dislike and be kind to them as though they were lost parts of you. Because that is what we all are, lost parts of one another. And if you are tempted to watch that video of a white nationalist getting punched on repeat remember that Orwellian dystopia has, to paraphrase, a fist punching a face over and over for eternity.

Resist legally, ethically and self-reflexively. It will hurt as only cognitive dissonance can, but the reward is the best dance humans dance.